Liverpool 4-3 Newcastle: The Match of the Decade That Cost the Magpies the Title

Balotelli…AGUEROOOOOOO!!!! – Martin Tyler, May 2012

That iconic piece of commentary from the dying seconds of the 2011/12 season has been the absolute gold standard ever since. Manchester City dramatically and emphatically tore the Premier League title from the clutches of ​Manchester United; there never had been, never has been, and likely never will be another moment like it. 

Tyler’s delivery was simple yet undeniably effective. It did the once-in-a-lifetime moment justice, while giving it space to breathe, treading water and allowing itself to be elevated by the crashing tidal wave of Sergio Aguero’s thumping, game-changing late strike. 

Before that, however, long before that, there had been another line delivered by Tyler that had been synonymous with the Premier League. 

It came at the end of ​Liverpool’s hammer-and-tong, back-and-forth bonanza against ​Newcastle at a heaving, bouncing Anfield in 1996, and it went a little something like this. 


“Barnes, Rush, Barnes, still John Barnes, Collymore… CLOSING INNNN! Liverpool lead in stoppage time! Kevin Keegan hangs his head, he is devastated!”


Collymore’s strike secured a 4-3 victory that sent the Magpies’ title challenge into disrepair, while it left the Reds in with an outside chance of reining in the visitors and defending champions Manchester United. 

Liverpool led after just two minutes when Robbie Fowler struck, but Les Ferdinand’s equaliser then squirmed through the gloves of David James, and although David Ginola’s clinical left-footed finish past James came with 14 minutes on the clock, it was celebrated in the away end as if it had won the match.

Liverpool v Newcastl


Fowler struck to square the game up ten minutes after the break, but then all hell broke loose, as the turbo-charged mayhem found yet another gear to move into. Faustino Asprilla once again notched Newcastle in front, before Collymore – English football’s record transfer after his £8.5m move from Nottingham Forest – made it 3-3.

20 or so frantic minutes of back-and-forth chaos followed, before the terrorising John Barnes and substitute Ian Rush combined to set up what was, to this point, the most famous goal in Premier League history. 


Liverpool

Key Talking Point

John Scales

A win was essential here to keep any residual title chances alive, as they went in five points off the Magpies – who occupied second place – having played a game more. 

And though they took their time getting there, when they did, it was worth the wait. 

Collymore’s goal in the second minute of stoppage time will live long in the memory at Anfield, as the Reds turned in a performance that rolled back the years. Roy Evans sat in the dugout, but this could easily have been a Bob Paisley special, such was the quality of the fearless, swashbuckling attacking football on show. 


Liverpool Player Ratings 

James (5); Wright (7), Scales (6), Ruddock (6); McAteer (6), Redknapp (7), Barnes (8), McManaman (8), Jones (6); Collymore (8), Fowler (7)

Subs: Harkness (6), Rush (7)


Steve McManaman

SPURS v LIVERPOOL

He didn’t get his name on the scoresheet but a value could not be placed on the link McManaman offered between Evans’ four-man midfield and the two-man strike force of Collymore and Fowler.

His run and assist for Fowler’s equaliser was symptomatic of a simply unplayable performance, as he bewildered the Newcastle defence with his movement, taking full advantage of the space created by the front two – who had Steve Howey and Philippe Albert on retreat mode throughout. 


Newcastle

Key Talking Point​

Liverpool v Newcastl

Liverpool legend Kevin Keegan described this one as a ‘classic’ in the wake of his return to Anfield. Even he had to hold his hands up after a breathtaking encounter. 

Having led the division by 12 points in mid-January, a dramatic dip in form over February and March saw Newcastle fall to three points behind Sir Alex Ferguson’s side; though they had only played 30 games to the leaders’ 32.

The race was still in their hands, but against Liverpool – a strong third place, though five points back having played a game more – they had to win, or at least avoid defeat, to keep the pressure on.  

It didn’t fall their way though it would have been no injustice if it had. Questions are rightly asked, however, about the defensive performance put on by Keegan’s team; they seem to simply have no plan B if ‘gung-ho’ doesn’t come off, and they were caught out in that respect here. 


Newcastle Player Ratings

Starting XI: Srnicek (5); Watson (7), Howey (6), Albert (5), Beresford (6); Beardsley (8), Batty (6), Lee (6), Ginola (8), Asprilla (7), Ferdinand (8)

Subs: Peacock (N/A)


Les Ferdinand

Liverpool v Newcastl

A constant threat to an often fragile-looking Liverpool defence, the predatory Ferdinand was a typically menacing presence and more than deserved his equalising goal. 

He was the perfect foil to the more technically proficient Asprilla, the duo at times looking unstoppable, and unshaken even by a ferocious Anfield atmosphere.


What Aged the Worst

A portrait of Kevin Keegan of Newcastle

In a word? Kevin Keegan. 

Then, he was an up-and-coming manager with a bright future in the game; but one ‘I’d love it if we beat them’ rant and a disastrous spell in charge of England later and…yeah.

Life comes at you fast.


What Aged the Best

Robbie Fowler

By this point, Robbie Fowler was well established as a prolific goalscorer and an exceptional talent, but the levels of consistency he would go on to achieve from here were nothing short of remarkable. 

He’d net 36 goals in 1995/96; 36 of the 171 he’d score over his 330 appearances at Anfield. 

Later spells with Manchester City and Leeds United wouldn’t quite hit the same heights as he had peaked by 2002, but he is remembered as a bonafide Liverpool legend; even if his second spell wasn’t quite the same.


What Happened Next

This match was remembered as a key junction in the title race, as it took the fate of the title out of faltering Newcastle’s hands and allowed Manchester United to take control. 

They would sign Alan Shearer from Blackburn Rovers the following summer. 

Liverpool went on to finish third and didn’t quite capitalise on the momentum built here; though it would be their closest brush with the title until Rafael Benitez came along. 


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